Set Your Tivo: 12.20.10Posted by Brian Otskey on December 20th, 2010
***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game
Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.
Not much on the schedule tonight but the action picks up on Tuesday and Wednesday. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
Davidson @ St. John’s – 9:30 pm on MSG (**)
This is game two of the MSG Holiday Festival with the winner taking on Northwestern or St. Francis (NY) tomorrow night at the Garden. St. John’s is 5-3 but has lost two straight games to teams they arguably should have beaten, St. Bonaventure and Fordham. St. John’s hasn’t tasted victory since December 1, a win over Wagner. Steve Lavin makes his Garden debut tonight as coach of the Red Storm in a game pivotal for confidence moving forward towards Big East play. The keys to this game will be ball protection and inside scoring. Neither team shoots or defends the three well at all, though Davidson has a constant threat in Brendan McKillop. 6’10 big man Jake Cohen can also shoot it well from deep but he does most of his work inside, leading the team with 15/7 per game on 53% shooting. St. John’s has to defend the paint well because they’re not exactly a potent offensive club, either. The Johnnies are a poor free throw and three point shooting team but they do have some talent. D.J. Kennedy is a versatile forward who can score inside using his athleticism against bigger plodders and has a good mid-range game. Dwight Hardy is also a key player for Lavin’s team as he’s the main three point threat but has been dreadful so far this year, shooting just 26%. Hardy has to get going for St. John’s to make any kind of noise this year. When it comes to ball control, St. John’s has a strong edge. The Red Storm are second in the nation in turnover percentage, committing just ten turnovers a game. By contrast Davidson is ranked #220 and averages 15 per game. The Wildcats have to protect the ball much better than they have been doing in order to have a chance tonight on the road against St. John’s. With Cohen in the post, Davidson may have a rebounding advantage and should use that to create more possessions and limit the damage from possible turnovers. St. John’s should win but the two losses to inferior competition have to give you some pause. They’re at home but this game may be closer than you think.
Stephen F. Austin @ UTEP – 10:30 pm (no television) (**)
Even though this game isn’t on television, it’s one of the better contests of this light night so we’ll preview it anyway. Two vastly different styles of play go at it in this battle of Texas. Stephen F. Austin is among the slowest teams in America in terms of tempo, ranked #336 out of 345 while UTEP is in the top 50. The Lumberjacks play almost exclusively inside the arc as their top two scorers haven’t even attempted a three point shot this season. Despite their slow tempo, Stephen F. Austin averages 76 PPG and is the #1 rated team in defensive turnover percentage at 28.3%. SFA rebounds the ball and defends well along the three point arc which could make life difficult for UTEP star senior Randy Culpepper. He’s averaging 20 PPG on 39% shooting from the outside but he attempts a lot of shots, some ill-advised, though that may not lead to as many run-outs considering the Lumberjacks’ pace. He’s not the only deep threat for UTEP however as Christian Polk is shooting even better at 41% on the year. For their part, Tim Floyd’s Miners are a strong defensive club as well, ranking #44 in efficiency and in the top 20 against the trifecta. However, that stellar three point defense won’t be as big of a factor against the front court heavy Lumberjacks. Look for SFA to get the ball inside to Jordan Glynn (62% FG) and Jereal Scott, their leading scorers. The Lumberjacks will look to crash the boards in order to take advantage of what should be a strong rebounding edge. SFA averages 40 RPG and can do even better on the other end as UTEP ranks near the bottom of D1 in offensive rebounding. UTEP has won five straight and will look to keep that momentum going by playing strong defense and getting to the foul line, something they do very well. They don’t take full advantage however as they shoot just 65% as a team. Keep an eye on 5’7 SFA point guard Denzel Barnes. He’s one of the smallest players you’ll ever see in D1 college basketball but he can sure handle the ball, averaging five assists to just two turnovers. At his height you’d expect him to struggle shooting the ball but that’s not his role for coach Danny Kaspar. UTEP is the better team and should emerge victorious at home but some of the matchups may cause them problems. The Lumberjacks will compete hard and their best chance to win will be by slowing the pace of the game down to where they like it. They may not win but it’s always easier to slow a game down then to speed it up against a slow team. It would be a surprise if Stephen F. Austin goes quietly into the west Texas night without putting up a fight this evening.